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By Robby McKittrick
Hometown Weekly Reporter
On Saturday, September 29, the Medfield Public Library hosted its monthly “Read to A Dog” session. Almost every month, the children’s section of the library invites six kids read a book of their choice for 15 minutes to a therapy dog.
Bernadette Foley, the Head of Children’s Services at Medfield Public Library, said that the event typically fills up very quickly.
“It’s very popular,” said Foley. “We usually wind up with a long wait list.”
The library advertised this event, as well as its other programs, at the end of the summer. However, because the program is “quite popular,” numbers are generally not an issue.
“We definitely have repeat customers who look forward to it,” said Foley. “We usually end up with new people too who just heard about it. Since we have been doing it for the last year, it’s been very popular.”
The purpose of the event is to create an environment where children can feel comfortable reading without feeling judged. Foley explained why this works perfectly with a therapy dog.
“[The dogs] are trained to have a calm, loving demeanor,” said Foley. “The really powerful thing about reading to a dog for kids is that it’s a non-judgmental audience. We tell the kids that the dog is not going to tell you that you pronounced the word wrong or that they are not going to help you to sound it out … Sometimes a child just wants to read and do it themselves and not have any criticism.
“We even have kids who are just learning to read,” added Foley. “We tell them that they can make up the story as they go along, and the dog is just going to enjoy and love you and spend time with you.”
Foley usually prefers the parents to leave their children alone with the therapy dog. However, that is, of course, up to the parent. Usually, the children range from five to nine years old.
This event has existed for at least five years at the Medfield Public Library. The library organizes the reading session with the help of another organization called Dog B.O.N.E.S. Dog B.O.N.E.S finds the owners who will bring their dogs in for the reading.
The library typically switches off between two dogs every month. This month’s dog is three-year-old mini goldendoodle named Toby.
On Saturday, the children really enjoyed their time reading to Toby.
“It was great,” said a mother of two young kids who both read to the dog. “My son loves dogs. They loved it.”